Wednesday, February 27, 2013

When Not Knowing is a Blessing

The past few days, I have found myself caught off guard when looking at my son. He’s such a big boy now! He is so tall and plays just like boys do and his sweet face is looking more mature every day. I realize that I must begin to adjust how I respond to him to fit his growing mind.  
Why is it that I am not ready for this? Why must everything go by so fast? Why is it that we gain wisdom only after the times when we could have used it?
Only after our babies have grown up do we realize how fast they really grow. Only after we struggle through those toddler years do we realize how differently we should have done things. Only after we have kids of our own do we realize our parents were right. Only after we leave our childhood nests do we realize how much we miss home. Only after our grandparents pass away do we realize all the things we wish we could ask them. Only after we face difficult circumstances do we realize how short time really is and that we probably overreacted a little, or a lot, to the challenges we endured.
It seems to be our curse that we discover what needs to be done only after it is too late.

Or is it a blessing?
Perhaps we aren’t supposed to know. Perhaps if we already had all the wisdom we needed for life, then wisdom wouldn’t be so great. Perhaps being able to realize when and where we falter is part of the pathway to becoming stronger, better people.  Perhaps this is all God’s way of telling us to be more attentive with our time because it won’t pass our way again.

I may have taken my kids’ baby and toddler year for granted, but I am blessed to have learned the value of time. I may have regrets about how I did certain things in their younger years, but I am blessed to have learned how important it is to think carefully before I make a parenting decision. I may not have realized how much I would miss my childhood home, but I am blessed to have such wonderful memories and can work towards creating great memories for my own children. I may have missed out on some great conversations with my grandparents, but I am blessed to have learned how important it is to cherish time with our loved ones.
I am blessed by the lessons which life is continually teaching me. 
In what areas do you wish you knew then what you know now? How could not knowing have actually been a blessing? I’d love to hear your thoughts!


Monday, February 25, 2013

For When You Want to Get Away

Lately I have been desperately wanting a break. A break from waking up early, a break from chores, a break from my kids, a break from writing, and a break from thinking. It seems there is no time or place to find that truly quiet space where I can gather my thoughts and recharge my mind. I love my family and I dread missing out on valuable time with them. But lately I’ve just wanted to escape to a Caribbean island, allowing the sun to warm my body and staring out at the beautiful blue water, immersing myself in peace.

But then I think about how if I were actually there, by myself, finally able to quiet my mind, I would just end up thinking about how much I miss those crazy kids.

So, then, if a Caribbean getaway isn’t the solution to calming my mind, then what is?
Now that I am well into my years as a mom, I understand so much more about why my own mom did things. I understand why she needed those catnaps in the afternoon or why she rested on the couch after dinner was over. I understand why she sometimes had to say no when I asked her to play with me. I understand why she got worried or frazzled by so many things. Like me, she too was overwhelmed and frustrated and tired. She, too, had too many things to do in a short amount of time. But unlike me, I never, ever, heard her complain about being tired. She just went and lied down.  I never heard her complain that she had to cook dinner, she just did it. I never heard her complain that she wanted to be by herself, she just accepted that her kids were always with her (or she dropped us off at grandma’s house!).   
The truth is things are the way they are. I could continue to fight them and be miserable, or I could wake up every morning and accept them, accept that I have young kids and they are going to test my limits, accept that I am tired and decide to do the best I can anyway, and accept that my duties right now are those of a stay-home mom, to take care of the house and the food and the errands. I could accept that all of these things are sometimes a little bit harder because I am a military wife (okay, a lot harder!), and remember my faith that there is a bigger plan, a good plan, for all of the challenges I face in my life.

If, for now, my Caribbean paradise is five short minutes in the car as I drive to the grocery store, or just one chapter of the book I’ve been trying to read for months, I’ll take it. With fewer complaints and the right perspective, my getaway can be much closer than it seems.     

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

"Home": A Memo for Military Wives

Last May, Phillip Phillips song “Home” was released as a single. It quickly climbed billboard charts and is still, eight months later, popular with music stations. I don’t know if the song was written for anyone in particular, but it might as well have been written for military wives:

Hold on, to me as we go
As we roll down this unfamiliar road
And although this wave (wave) is stringing us along
Just know you're not alone
Cause I'm gonna make this place your home 

Settle down, it'll all be clear
Don't pay no mind to the demons
They fill you with fear
The trouble it might drag you down
If you get lost, you can always be found 

Just know you're not alone
Cause I'm gonna make this place your home 

When I listen to these words, I think about how well it relates to military wives. I think about how we cling to our husbands as we travel through this life of unfamiliarity, one where hardly anything is ever constant. I think about how the military is stringing us along with little say in where the road will end up, blindly facing obstacle after obstacle on the way. I think about how most of us, at one point or another, feel like we are alone in our endeavors and that we must keep ourselves together solely with our own strength. We wonder if we will ever truly feel at home.
And then there is an answer.  There is a message for how we can find the place that is our home. If we settle down, if we let our hearts relax and become open to this life, we might discover why we are meant for it. We might be able to see how our demons, our negative thoughts and attitudes, create fear, dragging us down and preventing us from finding peace. We might be able to remember that when we feel lost, there is always somebody who can find us because we are never, ever alone.
We have our husbands, our families, our friends, and our fellow military wives. We are surrounded by people who love us and are in this life with us. We have people who understand our challenges and who are going through the same difficulties themselves. Whether we realize it or not, these people are what home means to us. This home is not a particular house, nor a particular location. It is a lifestyle. It is the ones who are with us along the way. Our home is the military.
The next time you are feeling restless about your destiny and wondering why you are here, remember the words to this song. The next time you are feeling lost and alone and unable to find your way, listen to this song. Let it move you and inspire you. Let it remind you that you’re not in this alone. And let it bring you reassurance that no matter where you are, you are surrounded by home.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Don't Blink

A few days ago, my husband and I pulled up some home videos on the computer from the kids’ baby and toddler years. It was amazing to see how much they have changed in just a few short years, but it was also sad to see how much they have changed in such a few short years. It was sad not because I don’t enjoy their ages now, but because I don’t fully remember them being so little. As I watched, part of me felt like I was watching videos of someone else’s kids. Even though I had been the one behind the camera and fully present when those videos were taken, somewhere along the way I forgot about all of those times when they were just learning to crawl or walk or the adorable things they used to say as they learned new words. I forgot about how they would play with their toys, slowly evolving from the play mat to the Exersaucer to the standing push toys. I forgot about how much vitality and independence and love they had in their little minds. I have been so focused on the monotony of the everyday that I had no idea how much had actually changed.

I wonder if there was a way I could have appreciated those times more. I wonder if there was a way that I could have etched those days into my thoughts so that I wouldn’t forget. I think about how the first few years of their lives I was distracted by deployments and not only had to be their sole caretaker, but also had to figure out how to comfort myself. Did I spend too much time on myself? Did I give them as much time and attention as they deserved? Did I remember to heed the advice of others and “soak up these years because they will be gone before you know it?”

Sometimes I wish I could go back to those years and have them be little again. I wish I could change some of the decisions I made or some of the ways I responded to them. I wish I could have known in advance what I needed to do as a parent to appreciate their baby years to the absolute fullest. But I know that I cannot go back. I know that there is no way I could have known any of this in advance given my level of experience at the age I had kids. And I know that everything happens for a reason, to teach a lesson that can be used to steer us in the right direction.
Life goes by fast, whether we have kids or not, whether our kids are babies or teenagers or adults, and whether or not we actually do take the time to fully appreciate each day. All we can do is try our best to stay consciously aware of what’s going on around us and enjoy each day that we’re given. And one piece of advice that I will give to new parents or soon-to -be parents, something that I wish someone had told me, is this: don’t ever blink.